As far as merchants go, Dave Scott, of his eponymous fish and chips joint, may well be Steveston Village’s elder.
Dave’s Fish and Chips, on Moncton Street, rivals few other pre-1980 establishments in the village. Budget Appliances, Marine Garage and the Steveston Hotel come to mind as some of the few left standing, following the recent departure of many longstanding businesses, such as Steveston Marine and Hardware and Mary’s British Home.
Scott, 71, opened Dave’s on Canada Day in 1978 on a wing and a prayer – something you don’t see much of from modern-day merchants, he says.
“There’s a different kind of merchant now. They’re more professional, I think, than we were. A lot of us were doing things as we did it, you know, learning as we went,” said Scott.
This summer marks his 40th anniversary and with his son taking over the day-to-day operations, he’s had time to reflect on an epic journey, as far as Richmond businesses go.
Scott grew up in Victoria and came to Richmond around 1970. He married his wife soon thereafter. But when the battery company he was working for closed, the hunt for new employment began. The hunt ended quickly when his mother-in-law brought up in conversation that Steveston didn’t have a fish and chips shop.
“The next day, instead of putting out resumes, I came down to Steveston, walked around and found this shop, or building, over on Chatham. And I went home with a lease,” said Scott.
Then 31, Scott had never cooked fish and chips before.
Neither had he run a business. So he got help from his neighbour who was an accountant, and they crafted a business plan and took it to the bank.
Scott planned to open during the Steveston Salmon Festival.
“We opened around 11 (a.m.) and by that time we had a lineup down the street,” he recalled.
“That was it; we kept going,” he said.
The joint moved from Chatham to its present-day location on Moncton in 1984. In 1990 Scott expanded to a second location on Bayview Street, where Sockeye City restaurant now operates.
“I was afraid of competition,” he explained.
But in 2002 his rent was doubled and he sold the restaurant. This allowed him to abate back into his homely restaurant, which still keeps an old-timer’s charm, with porthole window doors and a novelty ship wheel at the host station near the front entrance.
The key to a good fried fish and chips, said Scott, is consistency. He maintains a simple menu and mushy peas and abundant tartar sauce upon request are a staple.
There’s only one person he keeps in mind while on the job, he says.
“Without my customers, we would be nowhere. They’re the ones I need to thank first and foremost.”
It’s clear Scott values customer loyalty and tradition.
Steveston, he says, is changing and losing its “quaintness.”
“I’m not happy with the direction of Steveston,” he says, sitting on his sidewalk bench, looking across the street at a four-storey structure soon to house a Save-on Foods and which seems to have maximized every square foot of space to the sidewalk.
In the 1980s Scott was part of a revitalization plan that aimed to keep Steveston’s ostensible charm.
“There was a plan. You’d stay low along the water and go up from there,” he said, of future developments.
But influential developers have since built taller buildings along the water and Scott rues the day the City of Richmond developed the BC Packers site into Imperial Landing.
“It’s not quaint anymore. It’s really busy. They really destroyed the BC Packers land; there was a good opportunity for a park. Anyway, that’s my personal opinion,” he said.